Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Scott Stapp Feels Grateful for Another Chance: ‘I Know What It’s Like to Have It and to Lose It All’

By Michael Mar 12, 2024

“Man, it’s an incredible year,” Scott Stapp tells Billboard, despite not being even one-quarter of the way through 2024. His sentiment is understandable, though: after a decade of inactivity, Stapp’s mega-selling hard rock group Creed has roared back to life this year with a slate of reunion shows that keeps growing due to overwhelming ticket demand.

One four-night reunion-show cruise in April — first announced last July as Stapp, guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips’ first shows together since 2012 — led to a second cruise, and both quickly sold out. Then a months-long summer reunion trek, amphitheater shows that will kick off in July, wasn’t enough to meet consumer demand, so Creed plotted an arena run for the fall, too. And ahead of those reunion shows, Creed experienced an online revival, thanks to viral remixes, TikTok clips, World Series sing-alongs and an appearance in a Super Bowl commercial.

Over two decades after their commercial peak (1999’s Human Clay and 2001’s Weathered have sold a combined 19.9 million copies, according to Luminate) and 10 years since they disbanded amid waning sales and audiences, Creed has suddenly never been cooler. A band that was once a critical punching bag now has no less a barometer for contemporary cool than SZA declaring, “I will be a Creed fan forever.”

“So many positive things have already happened that are just mind-blowing, in terms of the level of Creed’s resurgence,” Stapp says.

Meanwhile, the wins have extended to Stapp’s solo career: Higher Power, his fourth album on his own, will be released through Napalm Records this Friday (Mar. 15) and is being preceded by the highest-charting single of his non-Creed career, the hard-charging title track, which has climbed to No. 12 on Mainstream Rock Airplay and earned 1.4 million streams to date, according to Luminate. Higher Power is Stapp’s most complete solo offering to date — growling and energetic, but also admirably reflective, particularly on “If These Walls Could Talk,” a powerful meditation on his well-documented past substance abuse issues, created as a duet with Dorothy Martin of the hard rock band Dorothy.

Stapp, who kicked off a solo tour last night (Mar. 10) ahead of the release of Higher Power, says that the support for the solo album and Creed reunion has “already exceeded all expectations.” He spoke to Billboard about what that encouragement means for him, personally and professionally. [Ed. note — this interview has been condensed for clarity.]

You’ve sold millions of albums and scored a ton of hits, and yet I have to imagine that the excitement around this comeback represents a special sort of achievement for you.

I’m still trying to process it, to be honest with you. It’s so profound of a resurgence that it’s an anomaly. But when I look back, I could see the build — you know, Creed was going viral online during COVID, and then it just intensified in 2021 and kept happening in 2022. And so you could see the swell of our music just connecting with an entire generation — some of whom weren’t even alive when we broke up — and then reconnecting with those that were a part of the ride back in the day.

And then to see it move from social media, to the World Series, to the Super Bowl — and then to see the overwhelming response in the ticket sales? It’s just a lot to take in. It’s all positive stuff, and so now, it’s just making sure that we’re all in a good place, we can ride on this positivity, and give the fans what they want.

You’re putting out your fourth solo album before any of the Creed reunion shows. When did Higher Power start coming together?

I went in the studio and first started writing for this record in January 2021. I had no timeline, and the whole Creed conversation wasn’t even happening — I was solely going in to write a record and then turn it in when I was done. So I began writing then and just went in when I felt inspired, when I felt like I needed to go get something off my chest, or I needed to escape and use the creative process as a form of therapy.

The album came together as a direct reflection of my life — I was living it during the period of time that I was writing it. And I was capturing the vocal performance right when the song was born, in the heat of feeling that emotion that birthed the song. A lot of times, you’ll go back and you’ll re-track vocals, and do things over again. And it’s really hard, I’ve found, to recapture some of that spirit that comes out when you’re really living it. And so with this record, I didn’t attempt to do that: I captured it, kept it, and would continue to build the music around it. And I think it really had a dynamic impact on the vibe of the record, because we captured lightning in a bottle with each song.

That certainly extends to “If These Walls Could Talk,” your duet with Dorothy Martin and one of the rare duets in your catalog.

The duet itself came together after the song was written. I recorded the vocals initially thinking that it was just another song on my record, but after I listened back, I knew immediately this needed a female vocal, it needed to be a duet. So I went on my search, looking for the right female vocalist, [and being in Nashville now seven years, I thought that this song would possibly be my entry point into country music.

I did a weekend gig in Montana with Daughtry, and I was unfamiliar with Dorothy, who happened to be opening that show. We watched her perform, and I knew two or three songs in that that was the voice that needed to be on the song. She happened to be recording in Los Angeles with the same producer that I used on this record, Scott Stevens. I reached out to Scott for something about my record, and he said, “I’ll have to get back to you, I’m in the studio with Dorothy.” And I said, “Oh, dude, I just met her in Montana! Play her ‘If These Walls Could Talk’ and see if she’s interested!” He played her the song, and he wrote me back and said, “She’s in tears. She’s in.”

A couple of weeks later, I got the email with her performance on it, and when I listened to it, I knew instantly that my gut was right. Her performance just blew me away, and I think it really took the song next level. I think it’s really going to do what I had hoped for this song — help it reach more people, and connect with more people who can identify with that message, and let them know they’re not alone in the world.

You’re squeezing in a solo tour in March to support the album. Was that always the plan before the Creed shows?

There was no Creed reunion on the table when I was making this record — the only thing that I had on my radar was making a solo record and going on a solo tour. When the cruise conversations came up, I was still in the mindset of, “I’m doing a solo record.” But then the excitement kept building, and more conversations began to happen, and the next thing you know, we’ve announced two tours, an [amphitheater] tour and an arena tour.

I remember having conversations with my team about this, and they just kept communicating to me, “Hey, this is a good thing, man. The vibes are so positive with you and the guys in Creed, and a rising tide raises all ships.” Everyone in Creed is supportive of everyone’s projects outside of the band, so I just look at it as a win all the way around — a win for Creed, and a win for for my solo record.

It’s a nonstop year, between the solo tour, the Creed cruises, the amphitheater run and then the arena run. What are you doing to physically and mentally prepare?

Well physically, I exercise and train at least five days a week at minimum — I’m preparing my body and have been for years, but I’ve even stepped it up, because of everything that’s in front of me. And mentally, I’m just trying to stay centered, grounded and focused on my faith. I know that when I’m walking right, in my spiritual life, and in my faith, good things happen. When I get off track with that, bad things happen.

But it’s still going to be challenging, and I’m approaching this like it’s a marathon. You can’t walk into anything like this like it’s a sprint, or you burn out. So you’ve got to take those moments for yourself when you need them. It’s OK to rest. It’s OK, on certain days that you have nothing to do, you clean your plate and take a mental and physical timeout to regroup. I think at this point in my life, I know what to do. And I’m fortunate that I’m going to have people around me that support me and encourage me, and are there to help me navigate as well, because there’s no point in trying to do this alone.

What’s it been like messaging back and forth with the other Creed guys as more shows get announced and viral moments occur?

Overwhelming, in a positive way. All our correspondence and all our interactions have been nothing but good vibes. Everyone wants everybody else to win, and everyone’s excited about getting onstage again. We’re just gonna ride this wave and really appreciate it in a whole new way. Because you know, especially from my standpoint, I know what it’s like to have it — and I know what it’s like to lose it all. And so this go-around is just walking in complete appreciation, gratitude and respect, and just trying to cultivate and nurture relationships. Because you never know when it can be gone again.

By Michael

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